A couple of films that snagged Oscar nominations head up this week's DVD releases.
“Captain Phillips” received six nominations, including best director for Paul Greengrass. Its star, Tom Hanks, who plays the title character, was overlooked, but the riveting story of a giant freighter being hijacked by Somali pirates definitely deserved its best-picture nod.
What makes the movie such a standout is its ability to tell a gripping, fast-paced yarn with some emotional depth, while adding enough geopolitical context for a real-world flavor. The action begins with Phillips leaving his wife (Catherine Keener) in Vermont. The captain is on his way to Oman to take command of the Maersk Alabama, a container ship. Preparing for possible troubles, Phillips orders a security drill off the Somalia coast, which turns into the real thing as pirates board the ship and take the crew hostage. Their leader, Muse (best-supporting actor nominee Barkhad Abdi), tells Phillips, “I'm the captain now,” and a ransom of $10 million is demanded.
The rest of the film then becomes a tense battle of wits as help is on the way in the form of U.S. Naval power.
Based on a true story of a 2009 event, “Captain Phillips” is admirable because it isn't a cut-and-dried story. It reminds us of the complexities of the world. Hanks usually plays a likable guy, but here he is gruff and pragmatic. Muse is a frightening presence, but there is something almost sympathetic about him. Little of this is in what the men say. They both carry out their parts in the incident as kidnapper and hostage. But Greengrass, who made the best of the “Bourne” movies, shows us two men caught in circumstances they don't truly comprehend.
Woody Allen's “Blue Jasmine” received three Oscar nominations, including one for the famed filmmaker's original script. Cate Blanchett as the title character got a best-actress nod, while Sally Hawkins as her sister, Ginger, got a best-supporting actress nomination.
The movie, which has a plotline inspired by Tennessee Williams' “A Streetcar Named Desire,” revolves around Jasmine, a onetime wealthy Park Avenue woman who hasn't come to grips with the fact that she has lost her money. For years, her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), a high-finance wheeler-dealer, spoiled her even as he cheated on her, something Jasmine never sees despite the signs. When Hal's scams finally blow up, Jasmine is forced to rely on the kindness of her working-class sister.
Stuffed into a small San Francisco apartment with Ginger and her two kids, Jasmine continues to delude herself even as she makes halfhearted attempts to start a new life. The character is as annoying in self-denial as Blanche DuBois was in “Streetcar.” I'm not a particular fan of Southern gothic drama, even when it is transferred to the West Coast, but I see this is an amazing performance by Blanchett, delicate and nuanced. There is a sadness in Jasmine that's hard to shake, even when you think she has made her own bed and should lie in it.
DVDS OUT TUESDAY
In a World ...
Instructions Not Included
Cat People: Collector's Edition
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: The Criterion Collection
RoboCop: Remastered Edition
Borgen: Season 3
Crossing Lines: Season One
NYPD Blue: Season Five
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